The Ultimate Throwback Treat: Cheese Fondue 101


by Jon Malmberg

You have decided to try your hand at cheese fondue to serve at your next party. Great idea as fondue is making a comeback in a big way in culinary circles.

Cheese fondue is the original form of the art and a great way to please a mix of palettes - and even vegetarians - with a single dish.

Having made the decision to make cheese fondue, though, you have another decision to make - just what kinds of cheese are you going to use to make your culinary masterpieces and what other ingredients might you want to add to give it your own special twist?

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Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondues

Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue

The concept of the cheese fondue was born in the alps of Switzerland in the 18th century and to many the Swiss fondue recipes are the originals and still the best.

If you want to be completely authentic the original Swiss cheese fondue recipe calls for a mix of Gruyere and Emmenthaler cheeses.

The strong flavor of the Gruyere is tamed a little by the Emmenthaler to create a taste experience that is neither too bland or too jarringly sharp.

The traditional recipe also calls for the addition of a little dry white wine. An updated version of this early recipe uses three kinds of cheese - adding Walliser Bergkase into the mix and specifying that the wine used be a good vintage Neuchatel.

Modern Cheese Fondue Choices

Cheese Fondue

If you do not live near a high-end cheese shop you may have trouble getting the cheese varieties you need to execute a traditional Swiss fondue recipe to the letter.

To overcome that many chefs - both professional and amateur - have come up with their own cheese and ingredient combinations to create a great cheese fondue.

For example internationally known English TV chef Jamie Oliver - who is known for liking to keep things simple - recommends that you only use one type of cheese in a cheese fondue to avoid an uneven melt, and that if you want an alternative to the harder to find Swiss cheeses then a good sharp aged cheddar - which is usually much easier to find - works wonderfully well in its place.

In addition, a dash of white wine Oliver recommends adding a small quantity of kirsch (cherry brandy) to add an extra smoothness to the taste.

On the other hand another British TV chef, Nigella Lawson famously prefers her food to be on the richer side and she recommends using a creamy, full-fat cheese like Brie or Camembert instead as well as adding in a little creme fraiche to really create a rich treat. She also suggests adding Guinness for an extra bite rather than wine.

Restaurateur turned celebrity entrepreneur Wolfgang Puck serves a fondue dish in a number of his restaurants as well. His however makes use of aged Dutch gouda, fresh garlic, white wine and a little extra cornstarch for a thicker texture.

These are only suggestions of course. If you really want to experiment with cheese fondues the sky's the limit, or at least what's in your grocer's cheese aisle is.

What to Serve with Cheese Fondue.

Traditionally the dipping food served with cheese fondue is a nice crusty bread loaf, most often a fresh baguette, cut into cubes. That's not your only choice though.

Pre-packaged, flavored croûtons are an easy alternative to fresh bread, crisp, fresh vegetable sticks can add a healthier element to the dish and chunked meats or pepperoni and salami slices are a popular choice as well.